DDW takes a look as British photographer and cultural pioneer Rankin turns from fashion portraiture to burning dandelions with his newest photobook release ‘An Exploding World’.
Rankin has always been a prophet of modern times. Icons of recent history from Madonna to the Queen have been documented in his vision while fashion and culture has been utterly redefined by his lens. If there’s an aesthetic trend floating through your Instagram or a certain way you like to position yourself in photos, Rankin is most likely the mastermind.
From the establishment of cultural juggernaut Hunger to his international roster of museum collections and magazine editorials, Rankin’s ability to capture his subjects has led to some of the most famous portraits in recent history. Yet when lockdown hit and isolation took hold, Rankin finally found himself without a human subject. For An Exploding World, the photographer turned his eye toward nature and focused on capturing it’s apocalyptic destruction.
“This title is an intensely personal project for Rankin, one immeasurably entangled with his own mental health,” reads Rankin Swag – the platform whereby Rankin sells his wide-ranging collection of self-published art and books directly to collectors and fans. An Exploding World is the product of the intense turmoil experienced by Rankin and the world throughout 2020.
After over thirty years as an internationally-renowned photographer, Rankin was cut off from his studio, his collaborators and his subjects when COVID-19 ravaged the country. Portraits, as we knew them, couldn’t really exist when face-to-face interaction was a criminal offence. New outlets for creativity and inspiration were necessary and with trips to the supermarket being the only chance to travel, every day became more and more vital to the fashion industry.
Where Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton became intensely focused on the omnipresent sky, Rankin’s muse was the hardiness of common nature and the vision of it engulfed in flames.
“For years now I’ve been obsessed with the perfection of a dandelion seed head,”-wrote Rankin.
“Seen as weeds, they grow absolutely everywhere, especially in the city and during a time of great stress, there was comfort in them.” It’s difficult to imagine setting fire to one of your last remaining comforts in a period of massive upheaval yet for Rankin, it offered an outlet to capture the chaos surrounding him and his own distress within. It also offered a sense of cleansing. “When fire burns through the forest, the old growth burns away to allow space for the new forest to emerge,” wrote Rankin.
Setting fire to a symbol of his lockdown experience offered a clean slate creatively. He was “clearing space mentally”. Yet as headlines around the world documented the unprecedented wildfires in London and throughout Europe this past week, An Exploding World felt like Rankin’s prophetic vision had predicted our future once again. A sister series to 2021’s Embrace, An Exploding World documents the strangely beautiful aura of natural destruction, playing with our human fascination with natural disasters.
The series is simple in concept, “burning dandelions”, but in reality is utterly sublime. Supremely designed in hardback by Rankin’s frequent collaborator Sea, the book is a complete art object and looks exquisite as an addition to any bookshelf or coffee table with its minimalist black, amber, and white palette. For Rankin, the artistic process of publishing has always been central to his ethos. “I’m obsessed with the printed page,” wrote the artist on his process, “from magazines to coffee table books, I may be a photographer but I’m also a publisher at heart”.
An Exploding World follows Embrace as a Rankin Publishing effort and further solidifies the photographer as an artist and independent publisher. Alongside new and never-before-seen photographs, An Exploding World also offers a personal exploration of Rankin through a self-penned introduction and an exclusive interview discussing the series and his inspirations.
An Exploding World is available to purchase now from Rankin Swag in a limited run and will undoubtedly sell out. Offering a softer yet devastating side to the photographer acclaimed for celebrity portraiture and beauty campaigns, An Exploding World is a unique series in a world of selfies and fashion. If you’re something unique and utterly magnetic to change up the feng shui of your living room or office, you’ve found it.